Spinner’s Interview with Sov from SURLY


Spinner hooked us up with this PRIMO interview as he sat down with Sov, well, actually he sat down with a High Life in front of a computer, and pulled questions outta his bike seat rester regarding what he thinks is  one of the coolest and most popular fat bikes around – The Pugsley. And of course what’s fatter than fat – The soon to be available Surly Moonlander. Sov is the sales guy for Surly bikes, he’s 6’6″, and not the tallest guy working at Surly. When he’s not putting out fires at the “Q”, he’s fighting fires in Decorah, IA – where the Surly Intergalactic Headquarters – Branch Location is. He also enjoys trout fishing, playing the banjo and spending time with his lovely wife and ridiculously tall son.


Spinner ~ How is the Fire Fighting going?

Sov ~ It’s good in the sense that nothing is currently on fire. We’ve been slow this year (maybe the prevention stuff is working?) There have been some random bonfires on the mountain bike trails some Tuesday evenings that seem to be unexplained – and a few under Twin Bridges that remain under investigation. The smell of warm Miller High Life seems to accompany these occurrences.

Spinner ~ Why the Name: Pugsley?

Sov ~ It was the least disturbing name we came up with. The list is absolutely unprintable. Coming up with names for products is a messy business at Surly, but we usually go with the one that makes us giggle the longest, but will still make it past our hippie lawyer. Pugsley works great because the picture in everyone’s head ought to be the portly kid in stripes from the Adams Family (remember that we’re old and remember some of that stuff for real). We like portly. It’s fun to say. It’s fun to be. And, it’s good to be the least likely to die first in the snowy plane crash or zombie invasion-induced famine.

Spinner ~ Was the Surly Pugsley the first Fat-Bike?

Sov ~ Hell no. People have been experimenting with bigger tires on bikes for riding in snow and sand for years and years. A whole grip of Alaskans had done custom frames, tried ways to get around chainline issues, and made some very cool stuff before we ever did. We helped the scene by designing tires and rims where those before had either gone away, or never existed. We also made our frame and components as affordable as we could in keeping with the Surly way. We want people to ride.

Spinner ~ A Class D fire indicates combustible _______?

Sov ~ Metals. How cool are combustible metals?

Spinner ~ Was there a lot of trial and error in the designing phases of the first Pugsley?

Sov ~ We did go through a few prototype designs before it was ready to sell, but the overall idea of it didn’t change much. You have to do something to keep the chain from rubbing the tire with a wheel that big, so the drivetrain had to be moved out. The offset rear was something that others had tried, so we went that route and still like it. We try to use as many commonly found standard size parts whenever possible, so sticking with a 135mm rear hub has always been a goal of ours. Wider hubs are great solutions too, but they can be harder to find and are generally more expensive.

The Pugsley was the most ambitious project we’d ever done and there was a lot of worry that it might not fly, but it seems to have hit a nerve with people (in a good way). That’s pretty cool.  Ultimately, we ride everything we design into the ground before we make it available to the public. I ride a lot personally, but I don’t even come close to some of the mileage and punishment that some of the others around here involve themselves in. We are proud to stand behind the things we produce and we don’t think it’s a good idea to make our customers our guinea pigs – though the imagery of that is interesting.

Spinner ~ What was the inspiration for Surly to come up with the fattest tire bike around?

Sov ~ More = better – unless it does not.

Spinner ~ High Life or PBR?

Sov ~ Whichever is closest.

Spinner ~ Since the Pugsley has gained acceptance and popularity, the fat bike copy fats are coming out of the woodwork.  Does Surly take any stance on the growing number of wanna-bes?

Sov ~ It’s a big weird fat tire pool party and everyone’s invited. We didn’t invent the bicycle and we didn’t invent riding one on snow, so we aren’t the fat bike cops. If companies design something well and people buy it, that’s more people on bikes and, ultimately, a good thing. We love the way the Pugsley and the Moonlander ride, period.

Spinner ~ Will we ever see another Purple Pug?

Sov ~ Mine is in my garage if you want to look at it. We’ve never yet re-hashed a frame color, and we don’t really have any plans to. The one thing we’ve learned (and I mean the ONLY thing) is that we’re never going to make everyone happy with a frame color. Luckily, there are gobs of powder coaters out there just waiting to take your dough and make your frame the color of your dreams (and everyone else’s nightmares.) Hell, get a can of Rust-O-Leum and go to town on your bike. Nobody should care but you.

Spinner ~ Hamm’s or Schlitz?

Sov ~ My wife is from the land of sky blue waters. Waters.

Spinner ~ What’s better than a fat-bike?  A Fatter-Bike!  Did the growing number of Pugsley competitors have any influence on the creation of a the fattest fat bike a.k.a. Moonlander or was this another home-grown innovation from Surly?

Sov ~ We honestly try not to get too caught up in what other people are doing. As soon as you start reacting to what other companies are making or even what people are asking for, you’re already too late to do something interesting. We used the same criteria for the Moonlander as we have for all of the products that preceded it: is it something we want to ride? The answer was yes for us and fatter tires, so we did that. It’s the same sort of reasoning we use when we don’t do something. None of us wants a tandem – ergo, no Surly tandem.

Spinner ~ There was a definite buzz among the interweb’s bike forums and blogs as rumors of the Moonlander began to surface.  Surly seems to take a pretty clear stance that some information stays top secret until Eurobike and Interbike.  This year there was what my wife would call a “premature” sharing of information.  Was that because fat bike freaks were speculating so intensely that you needed to ease their pain, or was it because you had something so cool to show the world that you just couldn’t wait for the big bike industry trade shows?

Sov ~ It’s hard to keep secrets. We have, in the past, kept pretty tight-lipped about the goulash in our various pots, but that’s not always possible – or even a good idea. This year, things went out a bit early as a kind of experiment. And saying that makes it sound like we planned it – and not that we failed to inform some of our international distributors that the information we sent was not ready to be shared. I know we may seem like a well-oiled marketing goliath, but really, we’re just bike geeks trying to get it right.

Spinner ~ Pugsley or Moonlander?

Sov ~ Is there just one kind of cereal in your cupboard?

Spinner ~ Who gets to come up with the name for a Surly bike and who named the Moonlander?

Sov ~ Naming our products is pure science – much like phrenology, creationism, or trickle-down economics are pure science.

Spinner ~ Is it True that no one could steer you right but mama tried?

Sov ~ I turned 21 in prison doin’ life without parole. Don’t you try to out-Haggard me, mister!

About Gomez 2576 Articles
Just an old cat that rides bikes, herds pixels, ropes gnomes and sometimes writes stories. I love a good story.


  1. “Sov ~ Naming our products is pure science – much like phrenology, creationism, or trickle-down economics are pure science.”

    It’s a bike web page interviewing a bike salesman, do we really need divisive politics here?

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